I am watching a documentary, ‘Izzatnagari Ki Asabhya Betiyaan’(The Immoral Daughters in the Land of Honor), it is disturbing to say the least and talks about the tradition of Khap Panchayat and its ruthlessness in dealing with those young people who rebel against their clan or Gotra ( clan) and fall in love or marry those whom they want to rather than those ‘arranged’ for them by their parents.
A lady in the documentary voices, “Norms, customs, traditions and practices are only enforced on women”..why? My ten year old daughter, playing nearby hearing this, asks me full of curiosity, “Why is she saying like this, I didn’t quite understand what she meant.” As a woman, I hope she never understands the meaning of such words, never needs to. But then that is idealism, and the world is far from it. Amidst the country making leaps and bounds as a power to reckon, we are also a country where till today, there are such bodies like the Khap Panchayat, which not only oppose, inter-caste marriages but in the name of tradition resort to heinous crimes to restrict them.
To understand the working of a Khap Panchayat, one would have to dig up a history that is popularly believed to exist since 600 AD. The Khap panchayat’s believe that all men and women in the same Gotra are brothers and sisters, and as such marriage between them is violation of tradition and is an insult to the entire Gotra necessitating extreme punishment. The punishment is meant to be exemplary so that in the future, anyone wouldn’t even want to attempt something in the same vein. This, in spite of the Hindu Marriage Disabilities Removal Act, 1946, which explicitly declared, the validity of marriages between Hindus belonging to the same gotra, different sub-divisions of the same caste. It says, “The view of village elders or family elders cannot be forced on the willing couple and no one has the right to use force or impose far-reaching sanctions in the name of vindicating community honor or family honor,”
As well as the more recent prohibition of Unlawful Assembly (Interference with the Freedom of Matrimonial Alliances) Bill, 2011, which proposes that no person or any group of people shall gather with the “intention to deliberate on, or condemn any marriage, not prohibited by law, on the basis that such marriage has dishonored the caste or community tradition or brought disrepute to all or any of the persons forming part of the assembly or the family or the people of the locality concerned.”
Unfortunately though research shows that the basis of honor killing or Khap Panchayat is not restricted to either Haryana or even India, it is prevalent in most parts of Asia. In fact most of the immigrant community in the US, from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and East Africa have seen crimes committed to maintain honor and prestige’ of the family and community, irrespective of what caste, faith or racial group they might belong to.
In view of this hushed tradition talked of in dreaded breath s, it is no surprise that the recent airing of the same issue in the popular television series ‘Satyamev Jayatey’, has resulted in the Kap Chaudhuri’s of Haryana voice their protest, while demanding that the program not be aired in Haryana.
People with such oppressive mentality, need to remember that we live in a free country and killing of people in the name of tradition is not an intelligent way of securing one’s tradition. One is unfailingly reminded of the bard and use his words to remind lovers and those who come in their way-
"Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove."
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